Settled by Europeans in the 17th century and officially declared a state in 1820, Maine is known for its chilly winters, and for the chilling horror stories of Stephen King. Blanketed in forests, and bordered on one side by thousands of miles of coastline, the state is full of wonders both natural and human-made. Here are 25 facts you should know about Maine.
1. No one knows exactly how Maine got its name; its etymology is something of a mystery. Some believe it was shorthand for the “mainland,” used by sailors differentiating it from islands off the state’s coast. Others believe it was named for the French province of Maine.
2. As the crow flies, the Maine coastline stretches an already-impressive 250 miles. But recent satellite images measuring the contours of its convoluted and craggy coast have shown that the Maine coastline actually stretches around 3500 miles. And that number jumps up to 5500 miles when islands are included.
Maine has its own desert, which spans 40 acres outside the town of Freeport. Though its silt hills are now a popular tourist attraction, the desert originally developed as a result of over-farming in the area.
Acadia National Park’s Cadillac Mountain is the highest point on the East Coast. Named for explorer Antoine Laumet de la Mothe, sieur de Cadillac—for whom the car company is also named—Cadillac Mountain is 1530 feet tall, and, from October through March, is the first place to experience the sunrise in the United States.
5. Burt’s Bees was founded by former photojournalist Burt Schavitz in Maine in the 1980s. Schavitz moved to Maine from New York after deciding television had made photojournalism superfluous. He became a beekeeper, began selling honey, and ultimately co-founded Burt’s Bees with Roxanne Quimby in 1984.
6. Since 2005, Maine’s annual lobster yield has weighed in at more than 60 million pounds, with nearly 124 million pounds caught in 2014. (That’s almost 90 percent of the United States’ lobster supply.)
The people of Maine take lobsters so seriously, the University of Maine even has its own Lobster Institute, dedicated to learning more about the animals. Founded in 1987, its primary purpose is to support the state’s lobster industry, and to help lobstermen around the world develop sustainable practices.
8. Until 2003, Strong, Maine, was known as the “Toothpick Capital of the World.” At one point, 95 percent of all wooden toothpicks produced in the U.S. were made in Strong. But as toothpicks declined in popularity towards the end of the 20th century, the toothpick industry began to falter. In 2003, The Forster Manufacturing Company, the last of Strong’s toothpick mills, shut down.
9. Most of horror writer Stephen King’s books are set in Maine. A native Mainer, King has set novels like Pet Sematary, It, and Salem’s Lot in small Maine towns. He wrote his first novel, Carrie, while working as a teacher in Bangor, Maine.
10. Portland, Oregon is named after Portland, Maine. The Oregon city was founded by two New Englanders, one from Massachusetts, and the other from Maine. After a coin flip, Francis Pettygrove of Maine got to choose the city’s name. He picked Portland to honor his hometown.
11. The official state insect of Maine is the honeybee. The state has a rich beekeeping culture, and even has a non-profit organization, the Maine Beekeepers Association, which was founded in 1976 to promote understanding of the insect’s importance.
12. The official state animal of Maine is the moose. The state is home to approximately 76,000 moose, the highest moose population in the lower 48 states. Not surprisingly, moose-watching is a popular tourist activity.
13. Maine is nicknamed “The Pine Tree State.” The tree appears on the state flag, and, as of 2012, a full 83 percent of the state was covered in forest, making it the second most tree-covered state in the lower 48 states (New Hampshire was first with 89 percent).
14. Maine used to be part of Massachusetts. The former Massachusetts province spent decades after the American Revolution campaigning for independence, and finally gained official statehood in 1820.
15. Bangor, Maine, claims to be the birthplace of Paul Bunyan, and is home to a giant 31-foot statue celebrating the legendary woodsman. The enormous Bunyan tribute, built in 1959, is “reputed to be the largest statue of Paul Bunyan in the world”—at least according to the statue’s accompanying sign.
Maine has a ton of quirky museums, including the telephone museum in Ellsworth, the Maine Coast Sardine History Museum in Jonesport, the Umbrella Cover Museum in Portland, and perhaps most famously, the International Cryptozoology Museum (also in Portland), dedicated to the study of “hidden” or “unknown” animals like Yetis, Bigfoot, and Lake Monsters.
17. L.L. Bean was founded in Freeport, Maine in 1912 by hunter and fisherman Leon Leonwood Bean. Its flagship store in Freeport not only has an aquarium, but is also adorned with a giant size 410 Bean boot.
With a little more than 66,000 residents, Portland has the highest population of any city in Maine. That’s nearly twice the size of Lewiston, which is the state’s second largest city with just 36,000 or so residents.
20. Founded in 1794, Bowdoin College is the oldest college in Maine. Its famous alumni include renowned poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and writer Nathaniel Hawthorne.
21. At just 15 years old, Farmington native Chester Greenwood came up with the idea for earmuffs in the 1870s as a way to stay warm when he went ice skating. To this day, Farmington, Maine, celebrates the revolutionary invention every year with the Chester Greenwood Day Parade, which features an array of earmuff-themed floats.
22. Maine is known as “The Birthplace of Prohibition.” The state was the first to ban the sale and manufacture of alcohol in 1851 (although the law was repealed five years later), and in 1880, Portland Mayor Neal Dow, sometimes called the “Father of Prohibition,” ran for president on the Prohibition Party ticket.
23. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote her anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Brunswick, Maine, during the 1850s. The house where she worked on the novel is now a museum.
24. One of the ten coldest states, Maine has long been famous for its harsh winters and chilly springs. In January of 2009, the state experienced its coldest day ever, hitting -50°F in Big Black River.
25. Maine’s motto is “Dirigo,” meaning “I direct.” The motto appears on the state’s coat of arms and its flag, and was adopted in 1820.